In October, a team from the Arthur Evangelical Free Church, Meriden Evangelical Free Church by Cherokee, and surrounding area churches will be traveling to Haiti.
For Mag Sauser and Teresa Paulsrud, this will be their third trip to Haiti since October 2017. Twenty-one people will head to Haiti on this one-week October trip. The team will be volunteering at United Christians International (UCI) in Haiti.
Paulsrud’s son, Eli, and daughter-in-law, Molly, started going on mission trips to Haiti about seven to eight years ago and have made many trips. After hearing the couple’s experiences and seeing how strongly they felt about Haiti, Teresa and her husband, Bob, wanted to go themselves. Molly travels to Haiti two times a year. She is on the American UCI board.
United Christians International was founded by JeanJean Mompremier’s and his wife, Kristie, who is originally from Orange City. Kristie met JeanJean while on a mission trip to Haiti.
Teresa said that when the couple shares their story, they say, “We had nothing - no building, no Bible, no clothing for others. We had God, and that’s the only thing we had.”
UCI began in 2005 in an area near Caiman, Haiti, that had nothing. Today, there is a school, a university, nutrition center, church, and health clinic. The UCI campus is the center point of the team’s trip. From there, they go to different villages.
“You can see the process when you go back to the same place (each year),” Teresa said.
Before leaving for Haiti, the team discusses how to spend the funds and on what projects. The team holds a couple of fundraisers to help raise money from free-will donation meals at churches, auctions, and tip night at Pizza Ranch in Storm Lake and Denison.
Some money is sent ahead so supplies can be purchased. The team purchases lots of beans and rice to help feed the hungry.
On last year’s trip in 2018, the team was fortunate to have five registered nurses with them, including Teresa and Sauser’s niece, Jill Else, a nurse who works in labor and delivery in Storm Lake.
With their medical experiences, the team organized a clinic for 25 pregnant Haiti women. There isn’t lot of prenatal care/education in Haiti, according to Sauser.
“Most births in Haiti happen at home on a dirt floor and in the dark where there is no electricity,” Sauser said.
There were five different stations – vital checks: blood pressure/blood sugar; prenatal vitamins – beans and rice; ultrasound; nutrition/family planning; and the ladies received a “supply bag.”
“These women had never seen or heard of an ultrasound machine,” Sauser said. “They don’t have any idea when their babies are due.”
Another way the team tries to help improve Haitians’ living environment is by providing funds to pour cement floors for families. The cost to pour a cement floor in a house is $350. Houses in Haiti are very simple. Most don’t have electricity or furniture.
Kids can easily get tapeworms from sleeping on the dirt floor. Sauser said tapeworms consume 60% what kids eat, which is extremely hard on children who are already starving.
The cement is hauled in bucket-by-bucket since there are no cement trucks. The homeowners help the team with the project, leveling the ground, stringing off the area, and helping mix the cement.
“It is a great way to work together,” Teresa said.
UCI goes into different feeding centers in villages and choses 15 to 30 of the most malnourished children and feed them beans and rice a couple times a week.
Sauser said on one day of the trip, the team had been able to financially feed any children who want to come to the feeding center.
“The word spreads quickly about those things,” added Teresa.
The area is trying to develop more agriculture, which can be hard to grow with the very rocky soil.
Teresa said her husband likes to help with this cause because they are working on growing the number of pigs, chickens, and goats.
“We have donations from people around here (in Iowa) that say they want to buy a goat for a family,” Teresa said. It costs $50 to purchase a goat for a family in Haiti.
Other projects the team takes part in include visiting the local elementary school and helping students with their English class and going on prayer walks to the surrounding villages to visit with residents, giving them Bibles and beans and rice.
Interpreters help the team communicate with the Haiti residents are.
“We have about eight college-age interpreters who help with translating who are priceless,” Teresa said. “We couldn’t do it without them. You grow to love them.”
When volunteers/teams on mission trips come to the UCI, it creates an “economic boom” as it creates job for the translators, cooks, and housekeepers.
Haiti is the poorest county in the Western Hemisphere.
The volunteers/teams stay in a dormitory and have three meals a day. Most of the cooking is done on an open fire. There is some electricity, but Teresa said there are no guarantees. The water for the showers is warmed in tanks on the roof, so you have to be quick to shower.
“You learn to beat people to the shower, or it might be a little cold, or you might run out (of water).” Sauser said. The team learns to live pretty simple during their trip.
One of Sauser’s favorite stories about her time in Haiti is about a pastor she met. He had broken his leg as a child, and it had never healed correctly. Sauser got every measurement she could of his leg. She took the measurements to Sioux City Prosthetics and asked the cost of the shoes to help the pastor walk easier. They built the shoe and didn’t charge anything. With the shoes, the pastor, for the first time in his life, could stand right. While Molly was on a trip to Haiti this summer, she told Sauser she saw that pastor wearing his shoes.
Teresa and Sauser said one of the interesting experiences while in Haiti is going to the “Open Air Market.” The Open Air Market is held once a week and showcases the very best of the people of Haiti. Parking is full of donkeys or small scooters instead of cars. Teresa noted that the market has raw meat with flies flying around it; goat bread and donkeys stand inches from the food you are going to eat.
In the past, the team has taken supplies with them. This year they are flying to Haiti on a smaller plane and can’t take as many supplies. They are planning to buy things, such as school supplies and other supplies and items, at the market. Sauser added the market is another way to support their economy.
With this being their third trip to Haiti and visiting the same place, Sauser said you really get to know the people, and they remember you.
Teresa said one of the team members says, “You think you’re going down there to bless them, and it turns out we get so blessed.”
She added, “The simplicity of life is so different.”
This Saturday, Aug. 24, a fundraiser is being held at Prairie Pedlar Gardens near Odebolt. Social hour begins at 5 p.m. with dinner at 6 p.m. and a program at 7 p.m. The guest speakers for the evening are Kristie and JeanJean, the founders of UCI. Free-will donations are accepted as all proceeds to go towards UCI’s next goal of building a teaching hospital, which ties into one of the departments at UCI University – a medical school.
For more information about UCI, go online to www.ucihaiti.org.